Passion is often born out of heartache. It is only after experiencing life-changing pain ourselves that we fully appreciate the importance of doing what we can to make that heartache a little less crushing for someone else.
Such was the case for Mike Glen of Anderson, who lost his father to suicide when Glen was just 11 years old. Glen later turned his anguish into action, leading the charge in creating the Anderson Mental Health Collaborative.
“People don’t know where to go or where to start when it comes to mental health,” Glen says. “With this collaborative, someone can go to our Facebook page or website and quickly see all these different resources. It’s like a one-stop hub for resources if you live in Anderson or the Greater Cincinnati area. We’re trying to take out the challenge of getting help and getting educated.”
Glen’s commitment to squashing the stigma surrounding mental health and making it a community priority didn’t surface overnight.
“For 25 years, I didn’t talk about my father because of the stigma associated with suicide,” Glen says. “For the longest time, I was embarrassed and ashamed.” It wasn’t until eight years ago, when Glen was 36, that he felt ready to get involved in mental health advocacy in some way. Glen, who works in engineering and construction, began volunteering with the Lindner Center of HOPE. He later served as a board member and chaired the annual fundraiser.
“With that came confidence as I became more comfortable talking about my dad and sharing my story. That, in turn, started to change my outlook,” says Glen. While on the Lindner Center of HOPE board, Glen learned about mental health insurance, roadblocks to accessing care, and the overall lack of mental health care service providers throughout the system.
“If a person is struggling and finally garners the courage to call for help, then learns that a doctor is not seeing new patients or there’s a three-month waiting list, that person is going to get discouraged and maybe give up trying to seek help at all,” Glen says. “Six months later, this same person is often hospitalized and suicidal. That’s a common story in our society.”
Once educated on the business side of mental health, he felt motivated to change the business model so that more people could get help quickly. In the spring of 2018, an idea took root: start a local mental health collaborative involving a number of community stakeholders, including Anderson Township, Forest Hills School District, the Anderson Parks District, Anderson Area Chamber of Commerce, and the Forest Hills Foundation for Education which helps fund public school education “extras” within the township.
“Go big or go home,” Glen says. “If I’m going to invest time in something, I’m going to go all out.”
Everyone he approached was on board immediately. Thus, the Anderson Mental Health Collaborative was born. The collaborative is not a 501(c)3 because the point is to bring these groups together as a catalyst for sharing ideas and promoting one another’s events and programs, not to create another service provider.
Over time, they have added community partners such as the YMCA, Beech Acres Parenting Center, A Better Approach to Memory Care, Step Up Anderson Township, Hope Squad, Mercy Health, UC Health, 1N5, Parkside Christian Church, Child Focus and the Ben Kimble Foundation.
Glen would like to see more people become proactive about preserving their mental health.
“Unfortunately, in our society, our whole approach to health is to wait to do something about it until we’re presented with a major mental or physical health problem,” Glen says. “Our mission is to provide resources, education, and awareness so that we create a supportive atmosphere around mental health.”
The collaborative envisions becoming the prototype that other communities can emulate.
“My dream would be to get calls from other communities that want to adapt something similar in their area,” says Glen.
“Ultimately, I’d love for Cincinnati to be the mental health leader in our country.”
Share Your Story & Start Healing
In February 2018, Glen delivered a keynote address to 500 people where he shared how his dad’s battle with depression and ultimate demise is what led him to become a fierce advocate for mental health. Following a standing ovation, he exited the stage to a line of 50 people who were all eager to share their stories, ask for his advice, or simply thank him for his transparency.
“I’m grateful that mental health doesn’t carry the same stigma as it did when my dad was growing up,” Glen says. Once people open up and share their stories, those around them feel less alone; that’s when the healing begins, he notes.
“Everybody has a story to share,” says Glen. “Somebody just has to be willing to go first.”
If you or someone you know needs help with mental or emotional issues, visit Anderson Mental Health Collaborative at andersonmentalhealthcollaborative.com, find them on Facebook, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.